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J Neurophysiol. 2015 Sep;114(3):1987-2004. doi: 10.1152/jn.00337.2015. Epub 2015 Jul 22.

The transformation of synaptic to system plasticity in motor output from the sacral cord of the adult mouse.

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Department of Physiology, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois;
Departments of Neuroscience, Cell Biology, and Physiology and Biomedical, Industrial and Human Factors Engineering, Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio;
Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, New York; and.
Department of Physiology, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois; Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Department of Physical Therapy and Human Movement Sciences, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois.


Synaptic plasticity is fundamental in shaping the output of neural networks. The transformation of synaptic plasticity at the cellular level into plasticity at the system level involves multiple factors, including behavior of local networks of interneurons. Here we investigate the synaptic to system transformation for plasticity in motor output in an in vitro preparation of the adult mouse spinal cord. System plasticity was assessed from compound action potentials (APs) in spinal ventral roots, which were generated simultaneously by the axons of many motoneurons (MNs). Synaptic plasticity was assessed from intracellular recordings of MNs. A computer model of the MN pool was used to identify the middle steps in the transformation from synaptic to system behavior. Two input systems that converge on the same MN pool were studied: one sensory and one descending. The two synaptic input systems generated very different motor outputs, with sensory stimulation consistently evoking short-term depression (STD) whereas descending stimulation had bimodal plasticity: STD at low frequencies but short-term facilitation (STF) at high frequencies. Intracellular and pharmacological studies revealed contributions from monosynaptic excitation and stimulus time-locked inhibition but also considerable asynchronous excitation sustained from local network activity. The computer simulations showed that STD in the monosynaptic excitatory input was the primary driver of the system STD in the sensory input whereas network excitation underlies the bimodal plasticity in the descending system. These results provide insight on the roles of plasticity in the monosynaptic and polysynaptic inputs converging on the same MN pool to overall motor plasticity.


modeling; motoneurons; short-term plasticity; spinal motor pool

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